Saint of the Day: St. Euthymios the Great

(Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press.Today's saint, St. Euthymios, comes from Volume 1 of the series.)
St. Euthymios

Of the vast army of saints down through the ages, one of the few who merited the honor of being dubbed “the Great” was a comparatively obscure Armenian whose life for Christ commenced in the fourth century and carried over into the fifth, embracing almost a hundred years of a glorious life in the most pious example of being cast in the image of the Creator.

This saint was born to a couple named Paul and Dionysia after the Lord had answered their fervent prayers for a child just as they were about to give up this cherished hope after many years of a barren marriage. The great joy of having been blessed with a son was as great as the elation they experienced when visited by an angel of the Lord who advised them to name the child Euthymios, a synonym for joy and exaltation. This divine visitation foreordained that the offspring was to be a cradle-to-the grave servant of God.

Euthymios received his early religious training at the hands of no less a person than the bishop of Melitene, Armenia, whose name was Ephrotes and whose repute as a holy man had already been well-established when Paul and Dionysia brought their child to him. The good bishop did not fail to notice the touch of grace that was already evident in his young charge and schooled the boy in all aspects of Christian theology.

At an age when most young men were applying themselves to the acquisition of material wealth and standing, Euthymios gave himself over completely to the service of Jesus Christ and was ordained a priest by his mentor of many years. The bishop had hoped that Euthymios would remain to assist him in the work of the church, but Euthymios felt the call to a greater service in acquiring not a standing in the community but a posture which could bring a closer proximity to God. Because of this holy urge, he was drawn to the Monastery of St. Polyeuthes.

It was at the monastery that Euthymios found the solemn joy of the nearness of God through meditation, prayer and service, and felt for the first time that inward mysticism which was to stand him in good stead in a long lifetime of service to God and to his fellow man. It was a full five years of complete immersion in the asceticism of the cloister before he finally emerged into the company of men, carrying with him an aura of holiness fully evident in his every gesture and deed. He had retreated to submit to the will of God and returned to find the will of God was within him.

His closest friend and confidant was another holy man named Theoktistos with whom he discoursed at length on matters of religion and at whose insistence he finally ventured out to be of service among the people. The very presence of Euthymios in a town square commanded the respect of all around him, including those who had little or no religious belief. To the Christians whose belief was genuine, however, he seemed like a messenger sent straight from heaven, and he proceeded to brighten the lives of the villagers wherever he went.

At one point the will of God that was within Euthymios was made clearly evident even to the skeptics. A young Arab, paralyzed by an accident, was carried to this holy man for help, and the help he received was witnessed by a small band who stood in wonderment at what actually took place. Without ceremony and the usual laying of hands, Euthymios simply knelt in prayer for God’s assistance with the stricken lad, and when Euthymios stood up, the young Arab stood up with him. If there were any disbelievers among the onlookers, they had a change of heart when the former cripple walked away.

The only other recorded instance of the power of Euthymios tells of an incident in which the Empress Eudokia, widow of the emperor Theodosios II, came to Euthymios for help. The holy man told her that her time was not far off and that she should abandon the heresies of the Monophysites. A few months later the transformed Euthymios died on January 20, 473 at the age of ninety-six, with a man named Savvas, destined for greatness himself, at the side of his deathbed.

Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikimedia.

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